Friday 20 November 2015

HOW CAN A MASTER TACTICIAN HAVE NO 'PLAN B'?



There's something intensely human and tragic about watching a proud man proven wrong. As his confidence crumbles, his mind falters and the veil of charisma that once so entranced starts to thin, becomes transparent and finally disappears.
 

Despite all the silverware he’s placed in Chelsea’s trophy cabinet, my feelings towards Jose Mourinho have always been mixed, because life isn’t about winning.
 

It’s about how you win and how you deal with defeat.

At the core of Mourinho’s dilemma lurks a bizarre paradox. Regardless of whether you despise the man and his methods or not, there’s no denying that during the period of a game of football, he’s a tactical genius. Yet now it appears that he had no Plan B.
 

The manager who prepares his teams for each game like no other, who makes brave and incredibly effective substitutions that turn matches around has no other way of doing things than the one he’s already employed in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain.
 

Most managers are happy to have leaders on the pitch, or leaders in the dressing room, but not Mourinho. He doesn’t want leaders: he wants disciples. Mourinho needs his players to believe in him and the power of what he calls The Group. 

There’s a distinctly military whiff to this style, and indeed sometimes he stands on the touchline, his left hand pressed onto the right side of his chest, looking half Napoleon and half Dr. Strangelove.

When everything is good it’s because the Group made it so. Everything bad that happens is down to all other bodies: physical, corporate and official.
 

His teams are set out in a similar style to many others. In front of five or six defenders a couple of flair players run between the lines, supplying a target striker. 

Nothing particularly remarkable, until you watch it working well. Then you realise that every single player out there knows exactly what they are meant to be doing and why. 

More, when an effective Mourinho team loses the ball, they swarm like ants over the opposition in possession until
they have the ball in their control again.
 

For this to succeed every member of The Group must fit into Mourinho’s template. It matters not if you’ve the prodigious talent of Kevin de Bruyne (now starring for Manchester City after becoming a superstar in Germany) or the energetic pace, cut and thrust of André Schürrle.
 

If you don’t defend well enough, you’re sold.
 

As a Chelsea fan, the intransigence of this policy has driven me to the brink. Twice Juan Mata was voted Club Player of the Year. A quintessentially Chelsea player, Mata is loaded with flair and magic, but he didn't fit the template, so Mourinho sold him to Manchester United.
 

This combination of player templating, tactical preparation and managerial adoration might have worked wonders at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, but at each club it succeeded only for a short time, because it sows the seeds of its own failure.
 

A Mourinho Cocktail consists of three parts: ‘I Am Great’, ‘You Are The Best Players In The World’ and ‘The Bastards Are Out To Get Us.’
 

For a couple of years Mourinho manages to maintain a healthy balance between these three components, but inevitably the negativity which fires up the delusional tendencies of the last ingredient starts to filter through, leaving the whole club under a cloud of melancholic paranoia.
 

This was written during the International Break, a notorious period when clubs tend to fire their managers. I’ve no idea whether today Mourinho is still at Chelsea. He might have been committed to an insane asylum.
 

Last week as I watched him laugh, jeer and mockingly applaud the referee from the sidelines, I clipped him from the screen and placed his image onto a street. If I saw someone behaving like that in public, I’d be convinced they’d forgotten to take their medication.
 

For Mourinho it’s all gone horribly wrong, but not, as some say, all of a sudden. Chelsea won the Premiership last season by playing well in the final four months of 2014. Ever since last Christmas the team has been either poor or worse.
 

Having seen their manager’s vulnerability, these players are no longer disciples. Along with the rest of the football world, the players are infected by and weary of Mourinho’s incessant complaints about officials and decisions. Physically worn out, mentally drained and disillusioned, the Chelsea squad no longer buy into the deal. There is no Group.
 

Worse, Mourinho is dashing back and forth to Portugal where his father has suffered two strokes after brain surgery. Having been through a decade of similar trauma with my own father, I know that Mourinho’s heart must be ripped asunder. His feet cannot be on the ground.
 

Far from his dying patriarch he faces a losing side that he cannot cure.
 

To Mourinho this is all unexplored territory and he seems to have no answers. Flailing like an octopus hanging from a hook, he fires the club’s popular doctor in very questionable circumstances and talks to the media about his players in a way that he never did. He brings on Nemanja Matic as a substitute and then substitutes him: a slight guaranteed to utterly destroy a player’s confidence.
 

The cocktail glass has shattered. The players no longer see their manager as worthy of adoration, nor themselves as the best in world. All that’s left is the blaming, the vitriol, the toxic outpourings.
 

Considering he’s such a masterful tactician, prepared for every eventuality in a game of football, it’s hard to believe that there was no ‘Plan B’ in Mourinho’s brain.
 

Did he really believe he’d never fail? If so, such arrogance guaranteed he was doomed from the start.
 

Despite the efforts of others to mock, it feels comfortably familiar watching Chelsea tumble down the league. We were always an inconsistent club that might dazzle or bore. All that ‘grinding out’ Mourinho wins was difficult to endure. This feels like a real Chelsea team.

©Charlie Adley
12.11.15.


4 comments:

michael picker said...

isnt it funny though, that him and the now ex/ex manager of man.united the twu most obnoxious to officials of the game were the most successful at it. remember fergie time?

Charlie Adley said...

How could I forget Fergie time? I think the difference is that Fergie was able to intimidate officials whereas Jose just annoys them. Good observation though. Thanks.

Cleanhouse MK said...

Charlie, I've always admired your writing but your analysis in this article is beyond what any football pundit would come up with. Well done!

P.S. Although I'm not a Chelsea fan, it saddens me to see Mourinho fail.

Charlie Adley said...

Thanks so much Cleanhouse MK. Much appreciated. Thanks for reading the column too.